Freshman Julian Collazo may have scored a lot of jump shots this season, but in the big picture, Cairn’s first basketball Rookie of the Year has both feet firmly on the ground.
Collazo started the season with a 27-point performance in the opening game and finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds in a win against rival Summit University in the season’s final game.
“I really didn’t come into the season with any expectations,” said Collazo about his freshman campaign. “It’s an honor to get recognition like that, but I just thank God for the ability to play basketball.”
This humble attitude is not the norm in today’s athletics culture, where thousands of highlight videos are posted on social media by players hoping to go viral.
“Before the season, Julian presented something to us in a meeting,” said Gerroid Doughty II, teammate and 2nd Team All-Conference selection. “He said he didn’t want to play for himself or anybody [else], but for God. It was something that I admired in him and, I think, part of why we were successful this season.”
This season’s 10-15 record was noteworthy after 10 seasons of nine wins or less.
Throughout the season, Collazo kept a pregame ritual of praying on the bench minutes before the game while his teammates took shots at the basket. “During this time, I just focus on me and God,” said Collazo. “I can be pretty intense and competitive on the court, so I just ask God to let other people see Him through me when we’re out there.”
This character was one of the main reasons that second-year head coach Jason O’Connell actively recruited Collazo. Collazo had been encouraged to go to a bigger school with a more prominent basketball program, but O’Connell saw potential for Collazo with the Highlanders.
“I knew that Collazo would have a positive impact here at Cairn, not only on the court but off it as well,” explained O’Connell. “Julian is a servant-leader, one of the first guys to lend a hand to anyone that needs it, whether that’s with basketball, academics, or just a listening ear.”
Since the season’s end, Collazo, a business major, has turned his attention to competing on another team: Cairn’s Enactus presentation team, representing the local and international impact of the student group’s entrepreneurial activities. Cairn’s team was named regional champion in late March, progressing to the national championship in May.
Whether in uniform on the court or in a suit on stage, Collazo means business. But his ready acknowledgement of God as the source of all talent and faith is what really makes him a standout.
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Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to clarify that Collazo is the first men’s basketball CSAC Rookie of the Year, not the University’s first-ever CSAC Rookie of the Year (all sports). Previous CSAC Rookies of the Year were Caleb Lang (baseball, 2013) and Rebecca Graber (women’s tennis, 2014).